Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Greening The Government Fleet?
The Toronto Star ran an article last Friday in which they criticized the Canadian government for failing to comply with the Alternative Fuels Act of 1995. The bill requires that the 75% of the government vehicle fleet must operate on alternative fuels when it is "cost-effective and operationally feasible." Though they point out that these conditions have not existed since the legislation was passed, they are particularly critical of the current Conservative government for not having invested more in compliance. Between 2008-2009, the government purchased 1898 alternative fuel vehicles, which accounts for 41% their fleet acquisitions for the period. The most popular alternative fuel used is E10, a gasoline-ethanol blend, which accounts for 8% of fuel consumed by government vehicles.
The authors offer a strong criticism of E10 fuel. Though it has been supported by many environmentalists, it can cost up to $2/liter (over $7.50/gallon), and the fuel economy is noticeably worse. Add to this the fact that vehicles burning E10 are no better in emissions tests, and there is absolutely no justification for the government to purchase these vehicles.
Though the article was critical of flex fuel vehicles, it was much more sympathetic to gas/electric hybrids. While hybrids are extremely popular with eco-conscious drivers, the benefits are far less than advertised. In fact, Wired Magazine pointed out that Consumer Report estimated the fuel efficiency of the Honda Civic Hybrid at 26 MPG. Not only is the 14 miles per gallon less than reported by the US Department of Energy, but it is exactly the same fuel efficiency rating as the regular Honda Civic. On top of this, the premium for the hybrid model is more than $10,000. If the government fleet met the 75% quota by purchasing hybrids, the total price premium would be $238 million dollars. Before advocating such policies, environmentalists should weigh the costs and benefits. Purchasing hybrids is far from a cost-effective method of potentially reducing emissions.